Petition calls for NHS workers to receive priority coronavirus testing

A sign on a gate at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Photograph: Hollie Adams/PA Wire.

A sign on a gate at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. Photograph: Hollie Adams/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for frontline NHS workers to be tested for coronavirus as a matter of priority.

The online petition has gathered more than 25,000 signatures calling for health workers to be tested, so they can keep on working instead of going into isolation if they have a cold.

Junior doctor Rebecca McCauley, who wrote the petition, said staff wanted to work with 'a clear conscience'.

'My cough is minor, and it's March, so quite common to get a cough ... but how do I know it's not Covid? The truth is I don't,' she wrote.

'So now I have to ask ... do I stay off work for seven days, leaving a shortfall of staff and putting further strain on the already strained NHS, when the likelihood is that I don't actually have Covid-19?

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'Or do I go to work with my minor cough (as I would normally) and risk potentially spreading Covid-19 to all of the sicker patients I see on a daily basis?'

She added: 'Currently, tests are only being done on patients who require a hospital admission.

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'This virus will cause minor symptoms for most people, and relatively young and healthy staff are most likely to fall into that category.

'The issue is the patients we treat are not healthy, they are frail and vulnerable. Ask yourself this - if your loved one needs hospital care for a condition not related to Covid-19, would you want them to be treated by staff who are likely infected with it?'

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The petition adds: 'I am petitioning for prioritisation of testing for NHS staff ... so that those who need to stay away do so, with a clear conscience, and those who can work can do so, with a clear conscience.'

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association's (BMA) council, said: 'Doctors, and indeed all healthcare staff, want to provide the best care they are able to. They are under an enormous amount of pressure and face some increasingly difficult times ahead so we need to look after them so that they can look after everyone else.

'The BMA has requested priority Covid-19 testing for doctors as a matter of urgency. With even those with minor symptoms having to self-isolate for at least a week, it is vital that health workers are prioritised for testing, so that any who test negative can, if they feel well enough, safely return to work.

'Otherwise, we face a potential situation where a significant number of doctors are self-isolating, some needlessly, instead of treating patients and supporting their colleagues on the frontline.

'With priority testing, doctors can be free to continue to treat patients safe in the knowledge that they are not at risk of passing an infection on to either colleagues and patients, while those who do need to self-isolate can do so in a timely fashion and focus on recovering properly.'

• The petition can be signed here.

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